Thursday, November 25, 2010

All the stats you never wanted to know about each conference; SEC not clearly the strongest conference, Big-Televen only #4 conference

There has been a lot of debate lately about schedule strengths and if a non-AQ conference team deserves to be considered for a BCS bowl game.  In light of that, here are a bunch of status and ratings for all the conferences, many of which you probably never knew you cared about but now do.

Note some of this was triggered by seeing @DufresneLATimes retweet @socalspud saying the SEC has no road wins over BCS teams.  I'm not sure that's true (see below), but do follow me on Twitter as @computerratings to see other snippets of information and data like this analysis.

First, here is the average, high, and low rating for each conference using my computer's latest ratings.

RankConferenceAverageHighLow
1Pac-1076.47391.22465.286
2SEC73.96282.81159.807
3Big-1272.90080.59959.948
4Big-Televen70.18681.82059.281
5ACC68.73679.03057.141
6Independent68.37272.69563.198
7Big-East66.25772.97560.017
8WAC65.15585.90947.955
9Mountain-West64.56584.68147.408
10C-USA60.45969.78047.824
11MAC58.09571.08745.308
12Sun-Belt53.58260.10148.552

This goes against the conventional wisdom that the SEC is the strongest conference with the Pac-10 being a 2.5 point #1.  The SEC is followed closely by the Big-12 and there is a bit of a gap back to the Big-Televen.  Clearly, the Big-East is down this year finding themselves just ahead of the WAC and Mountain West.  It is interesting that Boise is moving to the Mountain West next year but right now the WAC has a higher average.

Now, this is skewed a bit by Oregon having such a high rating so if we throw out the high and low from each conference we get:

RankConferenceAverageHighLow
1Pac-1076.02786.20969.737
2SEC74.49382.61864.074
3Big-1273.42580.57867.830
4Big-Televen70.10579.86360.113
5Independent69.22469.22469.224
6ACC68.86675.47460.996
7Big-East66.17771.49964.682
8WAC64.64876.69652.446
9Mountain-West64.14273.70455.457
10C-USA60.79068.43254.223
11MAC58.07766.61049.563
12Sun-Belt53.37057.22050.660

The gap from #1 to #2 is a bit smaller, but still over 1.5 points, so this seems to say the Pac-10 is indeed the toughest conference.

Another way to look at it though is to look at just games a conference plays against non-conference opponents.  Treating each conference as a single team in my algorithm, this results in:

RankConferenceAverageRecordSchedule
1SEC73.25339-5-058.260
2Pac-1070.86421-9-063.054
3Big-1270.08838-8-060.638
4Big-Televen68.66035-8-058.950
5Independent67.33018-11-062.271
6ACC67.12427-15-060.288
7Big-East66.89423-15-060.950
8WAC65.08621-17-063.218
9Mountain-West63.70517-19-065.050
10C-USA61.71920-27-064.725
11MAC59.04315-37-064.805
12Sun-Belt56.2254-31-068.467
13FCS52.3907-83-069.713

The SEC, Pac-10, Big-12, and Big-Televen are again the top-four, but the SEC has moved ahead of the Pac-10 looking at it this way.  Their non-conference record is better (39-5 vs 21-9) but it is against a much weaker schedule.  This is likely explained by the SEC playing only 8 conference games, leaving 4 non-conference games for each of the 12 teams vs the Pac-10 playing 9 conference games and only 3 non-conference for each of the 10 teams.  The SEC usually uses the fourth non-conference game to play a very weak opponent dragging their schedule strength down.

But the Big-Televen also plays 8 conference games leaving 4 non-conference and similarly has a weak schedule but not as weak as the SEC's.  The Big-12 does the same but manages to have a stronger schedule than the SEC or Big-Televen.

If we take a deeper look at the non-conference schedules we see some interesting items in comparing the Pac-10 and SEC:

  • The Pac-10 played 7 FCS schools, the SEC 11, in both cases all at the Pac-10/SEC school.
  • The SEC lost against an FCS school (Jacksonville State at Ole Miss 49-48) and the Pac-10 had one close call against an FCS school (Montana St at WSU 22-23)
  • The Pac-10 and SEC played head to head in one game where Oregon walloped Tennessee in Tennessee 48-13
  • Of the Pac-10's other 23 non-conference games, 13 (57%) were against AQ conference schools, 6 on the road, going 3-3 on the road and 6-1 at home, for a total record of 9-4.
  • Of the SEC's other 33 non-conference games, only 12 (36%) were against AQ conference schools, 4 on the road, 2 at a neutral site, going 2-2 on the road, 2-0 neutral, and 4-2 at home, for a total record of 8-4.
So, these are very similar profiles, the head to head win not being a big factor as it was the best Pac-10 team against a lower tier SEC team.  The knock against the SEC though is that they pad their schedule with an extra weak non-conference opponent while the Pac-10 plays an extra conference game, on average the Pac-10 opponent being stronger than the extra SEC non-conference opponent.

In any case, the perception that the SEC has the strongest schedule is clearly not an open and shut case, in fact one could argue the Pac-10's schedule is tougher.  And all the noise coming from the Big-Televen seems completely unfounded as they aren't even that close a #4 to the top-three conferences.

Thoughts or questions on the subject?  Leave a comment or message me on Twitter.